A few years ago, The Stone Foxes were falling asleep in 8 a.m. statistics classes at SF State and getting busted for smoking pot on campus.
Now, the four man bluesy rock band – who all hold degrees from the University – have hit the stage at Outside Lands and heard themselves in a Jack Daniels commercial.
“It was very humbling to know you live down the street from there and you gotta roll out of bed and play a show in the park,” says bassist Aaron Mort, who estimates the festival crowd in Golden Gate Park was their largest yet.
And that’s only a few of their trophies. In April they opened for Grammy-winning band The Black Keys in Arizona, and just last month they appeared at Voodoo Fest in New Orleans alongside Snoop Dogg and Blink 182.
The Stone Foxes are Aaron Mort, brothers Shannon and Spence Koehler, and Elliott Peltzman. Elliott, who plays keyboards and guitar, and drummer Shannon graduated with degrees in radio production. Aaron graduated with a degree in painting and drawing, and Spence, who also plays guitar, graduated with a degree in graphic design.
Their songs can be simple and fun or massive and complex, so it’s no wonder they draw repetitive comparisons to Led Zeppelin and the White Stripes. At times their music is wailing and sexy, but they can willingly break that down and whip it up into a sunny mixture of stomping feet and Southern spice. All of the band members take turns on the mic and swap instruments at their leisure, so don’t be surprised if a harmonica or flute enter the mix.
“We never approached it as a front man type of project,” Mort said. “From our point of view we all write songs and we all help write them and we all help perform them. We kind of work as a unit.”
And while they have been on tour since May, they don’t always occupy themselves with instruments. Mort uses his art skills by creating websites, posters and album art with his design company Boonie Blues. He designed the band’s website, which also holds an archive of the colorful 1970s style posters – groovy fonts and all – that he and Spence create to advertise their shows. Shannon and Elliott both put their degrees to work at local radio stations, writing jingles and editing audio.
“The Stone Foxes are a hit, but I think that Elliott and Shannon will enjoy successful careers in whatever they choose to do in future, Stone Foxes or not,” said Jeff Jacoby, a professor in the audio and radio department, who taught the two.
They moved to San Francisco from the Central Valley of California “to get away from the Central Valley.” While living in the dorms, the band practiced using a full drum kit and are still surprised they got away with it. Eventually they moved to the Sunset district where The Riptide bar on Taraval Avenue became their hangout.
After getting their degrees in 2008 the band stuck together and chased the music industry. Outside Lands was just a far out ambition at the time.
“That’s kind of when it just picked up and we decided to not get serious jobs and try music out,” Mort laughed.
Since then they’ve released two full albums, played multiple festivals and toured the country. After wrapping up their summer tour later this year they plan to see family and friends, and then get right back to it.
“Outside Lands started around the time we were getting serious, that was always our goal to try to play that,” Mort said. “It was great to be a part of that local music scene that’s rising. It felt pretty special.”
Catch the Stone Foxes at the Independent on Tuesday, Nov. 15. 21+, 8:00 p.m., $12 at the door.